"Concentrated humanity"
The choreographer Raimund Hoghe
Esther Boldt

Beauty. What a seemingly simple idea in an age riddled with cynicism, in which a tremendous amount of effort is spent dissecting such grand concepts into several little ones just to make sure that every possible aspect is covered. For the choreographer Raimund Hoghe, beauty is political, as it refers to the beauty of diversity and emphasises dignity. To prevent it from becoming too cheesy, he focuses on modest constellations: for example, the enchantingly tender duo Finola Cronin and Takashi Ueno as the old lady in the red dress and the young whippersnapper in "Cantatas" (2012). It could have been a love story if not for the varying number of dancers marching in a square around them; their solemnity confined the kitsch yet supported its message.
Writings on Raimund Hoghe record how he blends the ritual severity of Japanese theatre with American performance art and German expressionism while pursuing his own interest in humans, their feelings and the age in which they live. In interviews the author, dramaturge and choreographer does not strug- gle for words, he has his answers ready on the tip of his tongue. So where does his minimalistic style come from? "Chekhov said that when it comes to writing, the most important thing is simplicity. It’s not about writing well, but about being able to delete the bad parts. The same is true for my dance works: I try to achieve this simplicity and get rid of anything that is not absolutely necessary." Combined with his highly musical intuition for correct timing and subtle precision, this means that in his works even the smallest gestures can turn into big events: the raising of a foot, the turning of a hand. Such was the case in "L'Après-midi" (2008), a solo work for the dancer Emma- nuel Eggermont based on Vaslav Nijinsky’s "L'Après-midi d’un faune". Moreover, an examination of music always provides a key basis for his work in rehearsals – listening closely, carefully selecting what he needs. Again and again, the pathos of the music shatters against the minimalism of his style, a counterpoint that aims at emotional impact and plays with closeness and distance.
"I used to write with words, now I write with bodies", notes Hoghe. Educated as a journalist, he once wrote newspaper portraits for publications such as Die Zeit; from 1980 to 1990, he served as dramaturge for Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. In 1994, he presented his first solo work "Meinwärts", which took a look at the life and work of Jewish tenor Joseph Schmidt, who was murdered by the National Socialists. In examining the life of an individual, the choreographer perpetually searches for signs of the times, chronicles of contemporary history in the person’s biography. Many times, Germany of the Third Reich or the post-war era finds its way into his works. Yet he finds the biographies of singers equally fascinating: In 2008, he developed a work about opera diva Maria Callas called "36, Avenue Georges Mandel", and his 2013 production "An Evening with Judy" attempted to uncover the person Judy Garland was behind all the Technicolor clichés. For his theatrical evenings, Raimund Hoghe takes his time. He allows things to unfold, which can sometimes take a good three hours. He declares his works to be a shared journey, a way of "strolling through time together". And indeed, the evenings progress one step after the other with an exactitude reminiscent of a ritual. "It takes time to tell certain stories," says Hoghe. "Dramaturgically speaking, we have to get from one point to another without deliberation – that goes for the dancers as well." And sometimes, these steps can be taken literally, for example in his "Boléro Variations" and "Cantatas", where dancers continually paced out the square of the stage, reproducing that shape in each episode.
In addition, Raimund Hoghe’s productions represent encounters between various artists. "I view my work as an invi- tation into my home, into my world." What kind of world is it? "A distinct world in which everyone is entitled to exist as they are and live out their idiosyncrasies. And perhaps it is a world in which people communicate with one another." The man who famously has a hump on his back does not produce handicapped theatre, integration theatre or generational theatre. Yet when he performs on stage he stands for all those body types that are not typically represented there. "I am not asking to be accepted. I am simply here. With the other dancers. To us, age does not matter. Neither does nationality, sexual orientation or the differences in our bodies." And then: “Our work really is a longing and a quest for beauty." What is beauty, or rather, what makes someone beautiful? "Being at peace with oneself." Hoghe identifies these moments and then elucidates them with his dancers. His works are concentrated examinations of humanity that feel their way through life.
One example is "Sans-titre" (2009), a work of choreography for the Congolese dancer and choreographer Faustin Linyekula and a pairing of two extraordinary artists. In it, Linyekula and Hohge approached one another and then separated again, gauging the space and thus the possibility of closeness. Arms were outstretched to touch the back of the other’s head – the stage as a play space measured with bodies. Each of them functioned as a disparate mirror of the other, and they developed a relation- ship that defied easy interpretation. It was neither a love song nor the story of friends, thus illuminating the ambivalence of interpersonal relations. "As an audience member, I can see possible ways of living, how to live another way. I see that two very different people can experience closeness and a connection that cannot be written off under a cheap label." In this, dignity becomes visible. Utopia becomes reality. Thus Raimund Hoghe’s works are illustrations of a different kind of togetherness and eye-openers for the audience.

©Esther Boldt
Tanz Land NRW, Positions on Contemporary Dance in North Rhine-Westphalia, edited by Verlag Theater der Zeit, 2014